Saturday, November 5, 2011
Dead Dog Farm
Galway Arts Centre
“Of all the people in the world the best and the worst are drawn to a dead dog. Most turn away. Only those with the purest of heart can feel its pain and somewhere in between the rest of us struggle.”
For her solo exhibition in Galway Arts Centre Magnhild Opdøl uses the starting point of the popular 1990’s ABC TV series Twin Peaks. Her own hometown Sunndalsøra is a friendship town of Twin Peaks. The programme explores doubles, good, evil and the murky layers in between. Opdøl searches for similarities in her home, a place at once very familiar and unknown. Her art practice has been occupied with the poetics of the dead and our aversion to images of decay. In the original publicity for Twin Peaks, co-creator David Lynch’s now iconic image of a dead Laura Palmer featured on magazine covers, billboards and posters. The character of Laura Palmer starts as a two dimensional image and a stereotype for goodness and innocence, before the underbelly of the town is exposed through Special Agent Coopers investigations. Although Laura appears later on in the ‘Other Place’ and as her own cousin Maddie, she is never truly alive; in the minds of the viewer she is iconographic and stands for the loss of innocence, she is not a real person. Laura is a teenager that will never see adulthood or be able to disassociate herself from her traumatic childhood and adolescence.
David Lynch speaks about the idea behind the series he co-created with Mark Frost:
“Once you’re exposed to fearful things, and you see that really and truly many, many, many things are wrong – and so many people are participating in strange and horrible things – you begin to worry that the peaceful, happy life could vanish or be threatened.”
Magnhild Opdøl’s work is also influenced by the early 17th Century Northern European tradition of Vanitas paintings, which used symbols of death to express the transience of life compared to the everlasting nature of faith. The term comes from “Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas” which is translated in the King James Bible as “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity”and “Utterly meaningless, everything is meaningless” by the new International Version of the Bible. The objects featured in these works included skulls, decaying and / or bitter fruit, bubbles, hourglasses, smoke. They were strangely alluring while at the same time affirming our mortality and transience.
A viewer of Opdøl’s ‘Dead Dog Farm’ in Galway Arts Centre first encounters ‘First Circle’, a taxidermied lamb and ‘Confabulation III’ a photograph of the lamb in a field. The lamb is innocent yet has an Uncanny quality. It is viewing its own Doppelgänger.
There is confusion over what is real and what isn’t. Is the lamb less real now that he is dead?
A mounted log over the fireplace is a direct reference to Twin Peaks’ ‘Log Lady’. The log is cradled by a gun holder, a common object in Norway and in Twin Peaks. Aside from their thematic connotations, there is a strange joining of materials that make up this sculptural object.
For this exhibition Opdøl has moved into video work also. We encounter a large projection of a domestic cat eating a bird. This piece was made with a conscientious nod to Fischli and Weiss’ Büsi (Kitty) (2001, SFMOMA). However where the Swiss duo’s cat is peacefully taking a break and enjoying a drink, Opdøl’s subject is getting pleasure from eating a bird. This immediately conjures feelings of disgust and horror, but is it any different from walking past a restaurant window and seeing somebody eating chicken? Do we create rules and regulations for ourselves in order to separate what is good and what is bad? The front room of GAC’s gallery 2 depicts a ‘crime scene’ where deer hunting has taken place. We also see the image of a house, strangely symmetrical and visually attractive. Is this Dead Dog Farm? We see plastic on the ground – linking us back to the icon of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic. There is a sinister, cold edge to these works, emphasized by the cold and harsh lighting. The series suggests that time has passed: something has happened and has not been resolved.
It seems that the longer the human race exists, the more afraid it is of dying. We have never had more knowledge: we are rational beings. However an image of pain, death and decay still fills us with an abject feeling. There is a very thin line between life and death. There is no line at all between goodness and badness. We kill animals to eat them but do not expect to either see the carcasses or in the case of the cat, see another animal doing the same as us. The title, ‘Dead Dog Farm’ conjures a horrific image in our head. We are then confronted with beautifully rendered drawings of dead animals in gallery 1. Death is not something to be afraid of; it is something that can, like the case of Laura Palmer, ignite action in a place and reveal the truth in everything and everyone that revolves around it.
Running in Pairs
Michelin Star restaurant, Chapter One, is delighted to announce a new initiative to promote the work of artists in collaboration with the restaurant. ProjectArt @ Chapter One will work with young or emerging artists in Ireland to build a collection for display in the restaurant over the next ten years.
Inspired by a love of art and a passion for food, Chapter One’s chef, Ross Lewis, created ProjectArt @ Chapter One as a collaborative expression of the creative connectivity between art, food and the restaurant’s customers. Each commission, launched biannually, will coincide with the Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer seasons.
Every six months the nominated artist’s brief will be to create a piece to grace the cover of Chapter One’s menu, while the original work will be displayed in the restaurant. There will also be a number of limited edition prints available to patrons.
The first commissioned piece is created by Irish based Norwegian artist Magnhild Opdol and is unveiled today (Thurs 27 October). The piece entitled Running in Pairs is a pencil drawing of two hares. “The work for Chapter One was inspired by the autumn and the hunting season”, Magnhild Opdol said. “I wanted to leave it quite simple and still, like an old Dutch painting of a food still life where they used game and vegetables and other raw food objects.”
Commenting on the new initiative, Ross Lewis pointed out that there are a lot of parallels between food and art. “Both require a flair and passion for creative thinking and delivery of something that is visually appealing and engaging. The first piece in ProjectArt, Running in Pairs, also has a double meaning that reflects this pairing.”
“The theme for ProjectArt @ Chapter One will be the interpretation of the connection between food and art. Each season, ProjectArt will reveal a new artist, using any media which can be expressed as abstract or realism.”
Ross concluded “We are very fortunate to be surrounded by artistic talent in Ireland and the thinking for this project came not only from our passion for the creative pairings, but also a wish to support young and emerging artists in Ireland. Martin Corbett and I have made a commitment to this project for 10 years and we are very excited to see the diverse representations artists will use to express this collaboration each season.”
Chapter One is fortunate to have the input of Barbara Dawson, Director Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Michael Dempsey, Head of Exhibitions Hugh Lane Gallery and artists Fergus Martin (Aosdana) and Patrick T. Murphy (RHA) and are appreciative of their guidance, expertise and help when Ross & Martin are selecting artists.